Projects are risky, and project managers seek to reduce that
risk. There are many ways in which they can do this, from a risk
assessment to researching historical data on like projects and
thorough planning. While issues inevitably arise in any project,
the more they can be identified and controlled, the less they’ll
be a problem.
But what about the whole project? Will it work it? Will it be
cost-effective and be completed within a reasonable timeframe?
There are so many questions outside of the probability of something
going wrong. How can a project manager test out the waters, so to
speak, and see if the project is even feasible?
That’s where a pilot study comes in. You may have heard it
referred to as a pilot project, pilot test and even pilot
experiment. Think of it as a taste test to see if you’re going to
want to eat the whole meal. For a project, it’s a small step to
make sure the larger journey is worth taking.
What Is a Pilot Study?
A pilot study is a small-scale project that is used to
test the feasibility, duration, cost and risks of the full-scale
project. Through this study, improvements can be made to better the
performance of the larger project.
The reasons for a pilot study are obvious. Why waste time,
effort and money on a project that is destined to fail? With a
pilot study, it becomes clear whether or not the project is worth
it. It’s a small up-front expenditure that can save a large loss
It’s also a great process to find inadequacies in
project design that would be costly to fix when the project is
full steam ahead. However, those flaws could be redesigned prior to
executing the full-scale project, and therefore, add efficiencies
that make the whole process more productive.
The insights of a pilot study are invaluable and worth the
effort, cost and time. They can show pitfalls that are not evident,
things that are missing from the plan and more. This all saves
money in the long run and clears the way for a more successful
How to Run a Pilot Study
A pilot study needs to incorporate each feature or activity of
the project. It should breakdown the project into tasks that are
then tested. But this will speak to the feasibility of the project
writ large. It’s also advisable to seek out any historical data
that you might obtain from other companies or organizations that
have case studies relevant to the work you’re about to embark on.
Once you’ve done that, follow these six steps to implement an
effective pilot study.
1. Have a Clear Goal
Without a clear goal, a reason to set out on a pilot study,
there can be no focus. Without focus, your work will not hit its
target, for there will be no target to hit. Before you get started
it is imperative to know what it is your studying and set a
project objective. It sounds like an obvious step, but often
projects stumble ignorantly forward without it.
Therefore, ask some questions to sharpen the pilot study. What
does success look like? It could be making a cheaper product, or
perhaps it’s more important to save time and get the product to
market quicker. Whatever the goal, clarify it, make sure it’s
clearly stated and then keep it in mind as you move through the
pilot study. This allows you to decide if the pilot study is a
success or a failure.
2. Determine the Duration
The next step is deciding how long the pilot study should be.
This will depend on what you’re studying, what your goal is and
how long it would take to run the pilot study to get an idea of its
pros and cons. This includes setup time and any other ancillary
3. Create a Study Group
The group that is testing the product or technology is
important. They’ll provide you with the data you need to make a
decision on going forward or reworking some features. Therefore,
the group must be large enough to provide usable data but not so
big that it becomes unwieldy. Usually, the size of the group is
between 10 and 20 people. These must be individuals who understand
how to use the technology and do so regularly.
4. Have an Onboarding Plan
Not only is this step vital for the study group, it will also be
a valuable asset later on in the project when going through the
QA process. You’ll already have a set of instructions to
disseminate among your team for testing. You’ll want to have
training and resources available to help users in the study. If and
when the product or technology is ready for the market, you’ll
have a set of users comfortable with it, which helps with
large-scale adopting of the product or technology.
5. Get Feedback
This sounds like a no-brainer. What’s the point of a pilot
study if you don’t get feedback? But sometimes it’s the most
obvious steps that are lost in the shuffle. Don’t neglect this
The pilot study is a trial-and-error reporting, so you want to
hear back if it worked or not. This provides you with the necessary
information to troubleshoot and solve issues before a large-scale
The pilot study group should be given ample opportunity to share
their experience throughout the entire process, not merely at the
end of it. When the pilot study is completed, you can use more
formal methods of gathering data, such as group discussions,
surveys and self-evaluations.
6. Address Issues
The point of the whole pilot study is to have a list of
challenges that must be dealt with. So, the last step in this
process is working on whatever hiccups or bumps in the road to
market you discovered and resolve them before releasing the product
It’s important to remember that you want the benefits of your
project to outweigh whatever costs, time and effort are required to
implement it. This is basic return-on-investment thinking and will
be the final factor in deciding on the feasibility of the project
How ProjectManager.com Helps a Pilot Study
A pilot study is a project. Like we wrote earlier, it only
differs in terms of its size. Therefore, a project management
software is key to making sure you plan and implement it well. With
you can plan all the phases of the pilot study on a kanban board.
Each step is a column heading and the tasks are cards that travel
horizontally across them.
With our multiple views, you can further track the project by
switching to the Gantt
view, which places all the tasks across a project timeline. The
start date and end dates are represented by points on the timeline,
with a bar connecting them to illustrate the duration of the task.
Dependent tasks can be linked and all tasks can be assigned to
whomever is responsible for executing them.
Once you get feedback from your pilot study group, you can keep
it all in one place, thanks to the unlimited file storage we offer.
This makes it easy to find and makes sure nothing of importance is
lost in the cracks.
The real work, of course, begins after the pilot study. Now you
have to implement the changes. This is also a project and one that
is suited for the online project management software of
ProjectManager.com. We offer a collaborative platform, so your
teams have autonomy to work together more productively, sharing
documents and commenting at the task level.
Meanwhile, Project managers get the transparency they want into
every aspect of the project. Our dashboard
gets current data and crunches those numbers to display in colorful
graphs and charts. Six project metrics are tracked, such as task
progress, health and variance.
This transparency goes deeper with one-click reporting,
timesheets that log team hours, a window into workload to keep
teams balanced and so much more. There’s no need to jump from one
program to another to run a pilot study and then implement those
changes. ProjectManager.com has everything you need under one
ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software
that keeps project running smoothing through every phase, from
initiation to close. Project managers get the tools they need to
better plan, track and report on progress, while teams are given
collaborative features that make them more productive. Try ProjectManager.com
with your next project with this free 30-day trial.